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Tell people you’re going to Greece and you’ll probably be asked, which island? Halkidiki, about an hour and a half from Thessaloniki airport in the north of the mainland, is a fairly well-kept secret, although Eagles Palace has been a mainstay of the high-end Greek holiday scene for generations. Positioned just outside the village of Ouranopolis, overlooking the Aegean Sea with its clear, bath-like waters and perfect pastel sunsets, you’ll see why.
About two years ago, Eagles Palace gained access to some land above the hotel, a slope of Mediterranean heath with a higher aspect of that same sea view. They built Eagles Villas, 40 detached suites with private pools and beautifully landscaped gardens, ideal for those who want resort services and the sublime setting, but a more secluded experience than the hotel can offer. On arrival, you’ll be hit by the lavender and brine-scented breeze: welcome to a world where your only imminent decision is when to go for your next dip.
Unsurprisingly, they’re villas – but in reality that means spacious, standalone hotel rooms (there’s not a whiff of self-catering here). Each villa has its own private pool and deck with a staggering view of the ocean. If swimming in the sea and plunging into the pool in the day time aren’t enough water for you, there’s a big-enough-for-two bath tub to soak in as you watch the sun go down.
What’s for breakfast?
The main restaurant at Eagles Villas is Lomos, which is a buffet at breakfast time. Offerings range from Greek favourites – like thick white yoghurt that you can load with local honey, walnuts and dried fruit – to continental pastries, cold meats and cheese, as well as cooked numbers made to order. Not to mention stacks of fruit sweetened to perfect ripeness by the hot sun.
How about lunch and dinner?
Eagles Palace and Villas combined have six restaurants in total, of which you can do the rounds during your stay. The standouts are Armyra, the hotel’s modern take on a Greek taverna, with squid-ink taramasalata, fresh fish and grill-blackened aubergines loaded with feta and tomatoes (sit in the shade at lunch time and on the jetty for dinner, where you’ll feel at one with the sunset). For meat and vegetables cooked in a Josper oven and excellent wine – some of which are made at the nearby monastery at Mount Athos – try Vinum, while upstairs, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, Camares, is where local produce meets French and Italian techniques: think the likes of ravioli filled with local graviera cheese.
Is there a bar?
Several, all with an exhaustive array of spirits for the cocktail anorak to get excited by. If you’re a discerning coffee drinker, it’s worth knowing that the best stuff in the resort (illy made by a barista) is at the poolside bar at Eagles Palace – otherwise you’re looking at Nespresso.
Eagles is all about the sea. They have a private beach (with a quiet section) at the far end of which you’ll find their watersports centre, offering waterskiing, paddle-boarding, kayaks, doughnuts and bananas.
On land, there’s a gym and, down at Eagle’s Palace, an Elemis Spa for everything from massages to manicures. There are also three boutiques championing pieces by Greek designers.
Things you should know
Unless you like water-skiing, this is not really a holiday for thrill-seekers. The resort is pretty self-contained and the emphasis is really on enjoying sweeping views, golden sand and glittering sea. There’s not a huge amount to explore in the surrounding area, with two exceptions. First, the nearby town of Ouranopolis where you can find your essential take-home gear – olive oil, halva, nuts – and a good, traditional taverna meal if you’re looking for more “rustic” Greek fare (the hotel runs shuttle services). Second, there’s the monastery at Mount Athos – but no women are allowed … Ahem.
Also, in high summer, the resort is very family-oriented, so it’s perhaps not the ideal getaway for a couple wanting a quiet break.
Within a short walk you can find…
Make that a boat ride! You can charter a boat to Amouliani, the island facing Eagles, as well as a host of smaller ones (with poetic names like Frying Pan and Mouse) – and between them sip on sparkling wine and jump into the shimmering water.
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